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Second music book Ceol & Orain As A Cheo/Music & Songs From The Mist is launched by Skye-based couple Biorachan Beag – The Wee Squirrels – who have entertained at care homes across the north in Inverness, Dornoch, Aultbea and Ballachulish

By Margaret Chrystall

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A couple who have shared their music performing at care homes across the north of Scotland have collected their latest collection of tunes and songs in a second music book.

Niall and Sadie Gordon, Biorachan Beag or The Wee Squirrels.
Niall and Sadie Gordon, Biorachan Beag or The Wee Squirrels.

Niall and Sadie Gordon from Ardvasar, Skye, are known as Biorachan Beag – The Wee Squirrels – in care and nursing homes in Inverness, Dornoch, Aultbea and Ballachulish, where they regularly performed before Covid restrictions meant the end of their live visits for the moment.

But the duo came up with an enterprising way to keep their music available to entertain residents.

They put home-recorded ceilidh sessions on to USB pens and sent them to the care homes so they could create their own music sessions.

Niall, originally from Ross-shire, said: “It meant they had their own ceilidhs and if they want us to put another ceilidh on to the USBs, they can send them back.

“We thought they would be good for continuity – if you are out of sight for too long people could forget about you and that would be a terrible shame because they feel we are like their friends!

“They can plug the USBs in at the care homes and residents can respond with their tambourines and things and make an occasion of it.

“But nothing really substitutes for the live appearance. The banter we have with the people is fantastic. They’re the ones entertaining us, sometimes!

“Playing for them is like a calling and we have given up all other functions, we just concentrate on the care homes and that’s what we like doing. We really find it rewarding and folk reciprocate.”

The couple fund themselves for their live appearances, not having found any funding bodies prepared to support them.

Niall said: “We don’t charge a lot, though we have to cover ourselves, especially in winter sometimes when we need to stay overnight.

“So we decided to raise our own funds. We had a little numbers lottery where people could buy a square for a pound for the chance to win a squirrel picture! And we had a draw with prizes donated and that kept us going for a while.

“Then we decided to do the first book – we had enough music, so we thought it was about time these tunes were seen.

The second book of music from the Gordons.
The second book of music from the Gordons.

“I have a lot of Gaelic songs, I’m a Gaelic poet. And Sadie’s tunes are also suitable for songs, beautiful simple tunes.”

Niall and Sadie – who originally came from Edinburgh – put together that first book of their music which came with its own, what Niall calls “humble and homespun”, CD.

The CD, which has around 12 songs and tunes on it, has now sold out.

So far, Covid has meant they haven’t recorded a CD to go with their newly-published book, Volume Two, Ceol & Orain As A Cheo/Music & Songs From The Mist – Leabhar A Dha, which will be available all over the Highlands.

Niall said: “We had 50 of the first book printed and they went, and then the next 50 went.

“The first lot had the CD with it so that people who couldn’t read music could hear the tunes.

“It was a rough recording we made in the house on a hand-held recorder, and people told me they liked the plain simplicity of it and eventually they all went, though there might be the odd one still around.

“We got Volume One printed by charity For The Right Reasons in Inverness.”

They have legendary Highland band leader and personality Fergie Macdonald to thank for finding the right publisher!

“I originally heard about them from Fergie Macdonald, he had a book done with For The Right Reasons about his father in the army. He was selling it at various ceilidhs and when we were up in Strathpeffer, he said it was a very good charity. Volume Two has been done by Lucid Raccoon [For The Right Reasons’ successor].”

Niall also mentioned the project had sponsorship from people who wanted to stay anonymous. And the couple, who compose their own music and songs in Gaelic, English and even Irish, also pay tribute to the friends who arranged the “dots” to allow easy reading of the music in their books.

Niall doesn’t know when they will get the chance to get back to performing in the care homes: “We are waiting for the word – we love it.”

Volume Two (Lucid Raccoon, £10) is in The Music Shop, Inverness; Dornoch Bookshop; The Redburn Café, Dundreggan. Info and the chance to order book one, book two – or both: biorachan-beag.co.uk

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